Project Canterbury



"On Earth as it is in Heaven"



President of St. Stephen's College



Preached in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine,
New York City, on Whitsunday, 1920.



Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2010

"Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven."

THE will of GOD is that men shall grow great by that service which they mutually render to the common good. Heaven is that eternal state of spiritual living where spirits make complete self-oblation and self-surrender. The constant endeavour of the Church should be what is, by Jesus' appointment, her common prayer--to labour that on earth, too, sacrifice may be substituted for selfishness as a life motive, service for acquisitiveness, giving for getting. And this is just as truly her right aim when she thinks of labour and its problems as it is when she thinks of other human relationships and their problems. And, since her mission is to all life, she must think with all her wits and all her purpose how she may promote this doing of the will of that GOD whose morality is that of mutual service, in, among, and by those who do the labour of the world. Labour makes up most of living. If the Church has nothing to say about it and its problems, she has nothing to say about the most important thing in mundane living. If she is silent in this realm, then indeed is she impotent and negligible.

In saying that the Church has inevitably to preach the Gospel in terms of the labour situation, one ought not, however, to make the mistake made by some earnest but mistaken souls, of supposing that the making and the unmaking or the preserving of economic relationships in their details is the Church's business. There are some people to-day, on the one hand, who insist that Christianity shall act as the buttress of the economic order which now is. There are others who insist that she must set up some new arrangement and proclaim it inevitably of GOD, or else be apostate. [3/4] They are both wrong. The true function of the Church of JESUS CHRIST is not to make or unmake social orders, to devise social panaceas, or to glorify or denounce forms of government, political or industrial. Her sole interest, if she is to follow her LORD, is to insist that in any social order, according to whatever economic system may be on trial, under all forms of government, political or economic, the welfare of human beings shall be placed ahead of that of mere property, fraternal love be enthroned over subjugated human selfishness, and the clean, loving justice of GOD be met by an answering clean and loving justice of men and women.

In other words, the Church is called upon to preach, in squareness and love, the principles of CHRIST as the sine qua non for humanity, to whatever economic order may happen to be in power. Changes and developments will come according to the operation of the inevitable economic laws of GOD. The function of religion is to seek ever to spiritualize, humanize, fraternize that which is, fearing not that which is to come, nor seeking fondly to preserve that which can, because of the operation of economic laws, no longer be.

If the Church is to do that to-day, it is surely obvious that she must first understand just exactly what changes are taking place to-day. It is necessary that she should realize in this time of social transition just what is the essential difference between the social regime which was in power, say, thirty years ago, and that which shall be, say, thirty years hence. The difference is not that the one was based on a belief in private property and the other on a disbelief in private property. No communist should be able to fool us with that easy theory. The real difference is that the old [4/5] regime regarded as proper and inevitable the control of steam machinery by owners who employed hands, while the new regime regards as proper and inevitable the control of steam machinery by those who work with it. The demand of labour to-day is for a return of the ownership of tools to those who use the tools. Before the invention of steam machinery, each master workman owned his own tools. That ownership made him a self-respecting integer in industrial life. Steam machinery came. It demanded many workers to the one tool. The employer, as distinct from the workman, appeared for the first time upon the scene. The workers sank into the position of wage-servants. So it has been for nearly an hundred years. Now the workers are demanding that they shall no longer be wage-servants, but that they shall control once more their tools. As individuals they cannot do it. In cooperating groups they can do it. The whole labour struggle is really a struggle for industrial democracy, for the democratization of the steam machine. This the Church must understand.

She should also understand that this movement has already captured the imagination and the minds of the great majority of the human race. There is no great demand being made by anybody on the Church that she should go out and convert people to the necessity of the change. The world has already determined that the change shall be, and the real question is now whether it shall be by orderly, decent, law-abiding methods brought about, or by blood and iron--by working-class revolution or by common sense. The Church is not called upon to lead in the new industrial day. The masses are not agonizingly waiting in bondage until [5/6] eminent people like MOSES, with their satellite ecclesiastics, come to lead on toward deliverance.

The Exodus toward the democratization of industry has already taken place. The world has moved out from the state of things where masters gave orders while servants without question, in return for a mere subsistence, made them bricks. The world of to-day has not, to be sure, arrived as yet in the Promised Land. The people seem chiefly engaged in worshipping the Golden Calf. The proletariat demands the flesh-pots which only the masters used to partake of. TROTSKY would live like PHARAOH. Or, to change the Biblical simile somewhat, democracy seems very anxious at present to eat of the fruit of the vine which it has not planted, and the economic olive groves which it did not plant, and to be forgetful that after all even industrial democrats are not permanently exempt from that natural law which makes sweat the preliminary to fodder. But--the Exodus has taken place. Men for the most part think in terms of socialized industry. It is not necessary that the Church should lead the people out of wage bondage. It is necessary that she go out with them, keeping her head, and talking straight to the new democracy, telling it where it is likely to make a fool out of itself, and of how it must go if it would save itself alive.

If the Church is to regain the respect of the masses--as it can--it must first say clearly to itself: The control of life by mere wealth is a thing of the past. There remains before our day the necessity of working out in detail the change to a true industrial democracy. Our chief task for GOD is not, therefore, to counsel so much with the retiring economic lords as it is to counsel with [6/7] the enthroned commons. The powers that be are not of our ordaining. As once we sought to anoint SAUL, we shall seek to anoint DAVID--not for our own honour, but for the promotion of GOD'S cause. The king is dead. Long live the King.

That the Church is to-day seeking to do this very thing is simply a fact to be stated. I think it is a truism to say that the clergy are to-day more intelligent to social progress than any other group of professional men. Even the rectors of huge, endowed parishes, contrary to common opinion, are for the most part intelligent industrial democrats. And as for the laity, it has been to me at least a great delight to find that the most influential of them, even those who are powerfully wealthy and might be supposed to be using the Church as a tool for intrenching their privileges, far from doing so, are keenly and intelligently backing those within the Church who are trying to interpret CHRIST aright to the developing industrial movements. In illustration of this, I may cite the case of the Church college which I happen to head. A great many of the men who go into the Church's ministry go through that college. It seemed to us that it was of vital necessity that the men there should have opened to them all the various phases of the social and industrial movements of our time, and that this should be done thoroughly and at first hand; that the men should know the pros and cons of the syndicalist movement, for instance, and of the I. W. W. and of the socialists and of the Non-partisan League, as well as of the more moderate programme like the Rochdale cooperative scheme in England and the many conciliatory and constructive schemes in vogue in this country to accomplish the good [7/8] of industrial democracy without the evils of materialistic bolshevism. As soon as it became known that we, in the Church's name, were not teaching our men that of necessity our entire economic system was inevitable by divine fiat, a small group of people bitterly attacked the college and sought to have those in control removed. Personally I felt no fear. I have learned that the laity of the Church are not blindly reactionary. The confidence was not unfounded. Men of great power and influence in the business world and the Church world at once rallied to our support, and from all sides came assurances that the laity of the Church were indeed anxious that our college men should understand the manifold phases of the industrial development of our day, that by knowledge they might be made constructive evolutionists and not destructive revolutionists.

So it is always. The Church, its bishops, clergy and laity, are indeed anxious to take the labour world as it is becoming and seek to preach to it the sacrificing wisdom of the Everlasting CHRIST.

The real danger, it seems to some of us, is that the Church, far from being antagonistic to the development of industrial democracy, shall too gladly commend the workers, too graciously flatter the new democracy into believing that it can do no wrong. We must be careful to save the Church from doing that.

At times in her history the Church has flattered monarchs, only to have them reward her justly by wiping their feet upon her. Under the last century of capitalistic living, there have been times when she has been much too greatly dazzled by the splendour of plutocratic smiles, only to get deserved contempt from the dispensers of those smiles. If now the Church bows too [8/9] sweepingly low to "the little people," she ought to expect what she will get, their hearty, undisguised disgust. The new order is demanding spiritual leadership from the Church. While it will not brook silly, unintelligent opposition, neither will it tolerate idiotic and thoughtless admiration.

From this danger the Church will be preserved if she imparts to the masses, as they come into economic power, that they must not, if that power is to last, believe that popular lie wherewith demagogues love to feed them, that "the voice of the people is the voice of GOD." It is, of course, nothing of the sort. It is just as evident of defective mentality to speak of "the divine right of the people" as it is to speak of the "divine right of kings, or the divine right of big business." To say that mobs are less apt to go wrong than individuals is to go counter to all psychology. The only "divine right" belongs to GOD. All power, no matter by whom wielded, belongs to GOD, and is by Him delegated to be used for the furthering of His will. History does not show GOD less severe in holding peoples unaccountable than in so holding individuals. There is grave danger that democracies may forget this, and, "drunk with sight of power, loose wild tongues" which forget the Everlasting Ruler of Things entirely. GOD is not subject to democracies. There are no plebiscites in heaven. There can never be an Eternal Soviet. Divine laws are not subject to human referendum and recall. Democracy, like imperialism, feudalism, and capitalism, must obey those laws, and do GOD'S will on earth, or else perish.

That will, translated into industrial language, is very simple and very fundamental. It stands, dimly [9/10] revealed even in the crudest of primitive religions, amplified in the Bible, ratified and made personal in CHRIST. To the truth of it all, history testifies. For nations and for social systems, as for individuals, that law is this: "Wealth lovers and men users perish; men lovers and wealth users survive."

At the present time it seems far from certain whether the industrially enfranchised masses intend to obey that way or not. It is far from sure that they will have much welcome for a Church which preaches to them that they must obey it. Industrial democracy struggling toward power has been a delightfully altruistic movement. Industrial democracy in power looks almost, if not quite, as materialistic as the plutocracy it is displacing. Just as apparently, with brilliant and noble exceptions, the general idea of our investing controllers of life has long been not to serve humanity but rather to exploit it, seeking ever to gain for personal enjoyment unjustified and immoral profits, so now the general idea of labour, inevitably approaching social control, seems, with brilliant exceptions, to be not to serve humanity, but to exploit it also, seeking ever to gain for personal enjoyment unprincipled and immoral wages. The true enemies of industrial democracy are not capitalists. They are, rather, those millions of industrial democrats, apparently motivated by no higher or larger ideals than a desire for as much wealth for as little service as can clamorously be obtained.

If the emerging industrial democracy cannot be brought to live for the things which perish not, the things which transcend the material, then industrial democracy is bound for destruction--bound to follow imperialism, feudalism, and capitalism into the limbo of [10/11] things tried in the furnace and found wanting. From that pathetic fate, only that power which is in the religion of JESUS CHRIST can save industrial democracy and the civilization of the next half millennium in this, its dawning day.

Will the Church which brings this message to the industrial world of to-day and to-morrow be received with open arms? Will she find her courts all suddenly crowded with gladsome democrats? It is possible; but hardly likely. The message of sacrifice is not usually a popular message, especially to groups of people in the first flush of power newly gained. The Church may have to endure a bit of hardship, and penury, with fewness of numbers, some contempt, and it may be, if GOD desires it, some measure of persecution. That frightens nobody. Such things have been before.

What seems to be the conclusion of the matter?

The Church's chief social task in our day is first to understand and accommodate herself to the inevitable progress of industrial democracy and its inevitable supplanting of the old relationship of master and man in industry; and then to turn her attention to uttering to the emerging industrial democracy her one, age-long, unchanging wisdom, that GOD, Whose will will inevitably be done on earth as it is in heaven, is on the side only of those who are on His side, be they kings or capitalists or commoners--on the side of those who love and serve and sacrifice and who recognize that life consists not merely in the abundance of possessions.

And this, by GOD'S grace, in pulpit and school and college, and through such societies as the League for Industrial Democracy and the Church Association for the Improvement of Labour, and in the conduct of her [11/12] members in their own business and industrial relationships--this by GOD'S grace, she will continue to do, calmly, earnestly, and with simplicity, come easy days or hard.

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